I was in the heart of County Wicklow yesterday, listening as the Irish branch of Euro-toques, a European-wide community of cooks and chefs, debated the idea of Ireland as a culinary destination. Held at the lovely Brooklodge Hotel in Macreddin Village, this was Euro-toques Ireland’s fifth National Food Forum. Chaired by Peter Ward of Country Choice delicatessen in Nenagh, the panel consisted of Colman Andrews, former editor-in-chief of US food magazine, Saveur; John McKenna, the man behind the Bridgestone Guides; artisan butcher, market trader and sausage-maker extraordinaire Ed Hicks; editor of The Dubliner, Trevor White; and John Mulcahy of Failte Ireland, who provide training and development services for the tourism and hospitality industry.
Far more questions were raised than could be answered or even properly debated over the course of the brief two-and-a-half-hour gathering, including the enormous gulf between perceptions of foodie Ireland and the reality. John McKenna spoke passionately about the facsimile Irish experience currently been offered to guests in hotels and restaurants throughout the country and emphasised the fact that a food culture would only develop as good people do good things individually and at their own pace. The need to encourage Irish people to eat well was also stated by Trevor White, and Ed Hicks encouraged local authorities to demonstrate an intelligent appreciation of guidelines towards the market traders that have such an important role to play in local communities and in enriching visitors’ experiences of Ireland.
As the panel discussion ended, only to be continued on an individual basis throughout the afternoon, a food fair was in full swing outside throughout the showers and sunshine with many of the usual suspects – apple juice, cheese, organic vegetables – joined by less familiar Irish blueberries and Boozeberries, nettle preserve from Bluebell Organic Farm and Meadowsweet Apiaries’ beeswax and honey lip balm. Although the day ended very pleasantly with a thoroughly enjoyable organic and wild food barbeque in the idyllic grounds of Brooklodge, it now remains to be seen what – if anything – emerges from yesterday’s discussions.
Related stories: Choice in the country April 06, 2006